Murphy hit the mark with 31-point night against Murray State
COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Kevin Murphy has earned his membership card in an exclusive group of Tennessee Tech basketball players. Now, Tacarra Hayes is bidding to do the same.
Midway through the second half of Saturday night's game against Murray State, Murphy became the 32nd Golden Eagle to join the school's 1,000-Point Club. The 6-foot-6 junior from Fairburn, Ga., finished with 31 points, lifting his career total to 1,010 points in 78 games.
Hayes, who will also accomplish the feat in her junior season, wrapped up the past weekend with 919 career points, needing just 81 more to become the 26th member from the women's basketball program to eclipse 1,000 points. She is a 5-foot-7 junior from Lebanon, Ky., averaging 14.8 point per game to rank seventh in the Ohio Valley Conference.
At her current pace, Hayes (photo left) would hit the 1,000-point milestone in early February. But, as Murphy learned, it could come quicker than that.
"It was nice to get there, but I really didn't know I was that close," Murphy said. "I was just playing, but I'm proud that I got it."
Head coach Mike Sutton is also proud of his leading scorer.
"We expected him to get to 1,000 points at some point in the season, and last week he had two really good offensive games," Sutton said. "That puts him into a pretty elite group, and he did it in two-and-a-half seasons. He's improved his game, and we expect him to continue to get better as he climbs up the ranks."
Sutton is most pleased that Murphy has done a better job with his all-around game.
"He's second on our team in assists, his free throw percentage is the highest in his career," Sutton said. "We talk with him about offensive efficiency, and scoring without taking a lot of shots. He's more effective making threes and getting to the free throw line."
Murphy averaged 9.6 points per game in his freshman season, making him one of Tech's highest-scoring freshmen. He played in 30 games and started 16 contests, including the final 12. He ranked fifth in the OVC in 3-point percentage.
Last season, he started in 31 games and played in all 32 while ranking first on the team and fifth in the OVC with 15.3 points per game. He was 12th in the league in free throw percentage.
This winter, Murphy has scored in double figures in 13 of Tech's 16 games and tops the team with 14.5 points per game. That places him seventh in the OVC in scoring while ranking 13th in free throw percentage.
"Kevin came in here with an opportunity to play right away as a freshman, and he's one of those guys who can carry the load, offensively," Sutton said. "He continues to develop his game and he's a leader on the court. He's working hard on raising all aspects of his game up a notch. He's especially trying to improve in areas that we talked about.
"A team is always a work in progress, and when one of your best players continues to work hard, that helps the entire team," Sutton said.
Murphy (photo left) feels his biggest improvement has come in his ball strength.
"Better ball strength has allowed me to help create more opportunities for the team," he said.
Being a leader is a role Murphy is learning to fill.
"I want to be the type of player that everyone can look up to," he said.
Murphy is the ninth Golden Eagle to play for head Sutton who is listed in the 1,000-Point Club. The latest was Frank Davis, who hit the milestone last year. Sutton's others were Milone Clark, Cameron Crisp, Anthony Fisher, Willie Jenkins, Brent Jolly, Damien Kinloch and Amadi McKenzie.
The first player to hit 1,000 career points as a Golden Eagle was Herbie Merritt, who scored 1,168 in his three-year career from 1953 to 1956. He was followed quickly by Kenny Sidwell in 1958 and Jimmy Hagan in 1960.
In the women's program, the last player to achieve 1,000 points was Blair Bowens, who reached the milestone just days after Meagan Lyons hit that mark in the 2008-09 season. Hayes will be the first player under coach Sytia Messer to hit that mark.
Murphy will be recognized for joining the club on Thursday, Feb. 3, during the Eastern Kentucky doubleheader in Eblen Center.